Hull Blogs

Aggregated posts from University of Hull students

Hull of a busy week - Technology events in the city

This week has been really tech filled, with a CodePen event with a presentation of what we created as part of the NASA SpaceApps Challenge (see earlier post), as well as taking part in a BJSS pair programming event at the University, filming a promotional video with a design agency, going to a hardware meetup and having a lecture from a Microsoft Intern who told us about working for the company. It’s been a really interesting week! CodePen Hull As #hullCSS we attended our first CodePen event down at C4DI on the Hull waterfront last Monday. CodePen was a really interesting event that definitely be going back to in future, the evening had five speakers each with their specialism where they gave their best practice advice and showed off their own cool projects to other developers. We heard from Mike - a local developer who spoke to us about best practises and common downfalls of people writing concurrent applications. Next was Amalia - a freelance developer who told us the issues she had trying to manage projects and tasks, not finding anything to fit her workflow and showed us the platform she wrote to track bills and show customers how far their project was in development. Matt from Sauce then gave us an overview of the best ways to do state management in Redux (for React) which was really interesting as I’d used Redux previously in my internship this year. Harry then gave the audience a demo of our SpaceApps Challenge entry and got some questions from the audience and some really positive interest about our project, which was great! Dave, a developer at The One Point then wrapped up the evening with some pretty interesting APIs for Microsoft products. All in all it was a really good night, and the free pizza and beer made it even better! BJSS Pair Programming The BJSS Event on Tuesday took place at the University, where we had 5 teams competing to come up with the most creative solution to the problem of “How can you convert a string of currency in word form to numbers” and vice versa (acceptable entries would include both ‘£21.33’ and ‘twenty one pounds and thirty three pence’). There was a catch that solutions had to be made using test-driven development, so tests had to be written before we did any programming. After spending a few minutes trying to remember the syntax for XUnit tests, we got going and made our outline tests and got a functional product going from currency to words and started on the tests to go the other way. It was really interesting to get another perspective on development, and although a very extreme approach I saw the merit of having these very defined tests before we started programming; there was free pizza here too which was nice of them. Promotional Video On Wednesday and Thursday, I’d been asked if I wanted to take part in UPP’s (University Partnership Programme’s) promotional video to show the accommodation I live in to new prospective students, other properties they own and their shareholders. It was a packed two days, where we spent Wednesday afternoon filming B-roll for the video of me and some of my flatmates touring the University and our accommodation blocks, and then in the evening I had an interview to ask about my experiences (something that was exciting and less scary than I anticipated). On Thursday we spent the day doing promotional photos, including me stood in 25 different places around a washing machine and across campus. It was a really interesting couple of days and was great to get to meet and work with the team from Hatched London who co-ordinated the days. Hardware Meetup After finishing on the photos on Thursday, I headed down to C4DI with some members of the #hullCSS exec (Harry and Adam) for a PCB (printed circuit board) specialised Connected Humber Meetup. Harry showed us some of the boards he’d designed for a multi-directional camera, we also met Hayden the creator of the world’s smallest Arduino compatible device. Paul then showed us how to design our own printed circuit boards and the right software to do it and get them made up - it was really interesting and super cool how the circuit designs were validated if they were possible to make before sending them off across the UK or to China. As it’s so incredibly cheap to do and with so much room for extension, it’s definitely going to be something I try in the future. Microsoft Seminar On Friday, Kaan, a placement year student from the University of Hull who’s currently working at Microsoft came in to have a chat with us about what it’s like working at Microsoft, career opportunities and jobs at the company. It was really interesting to find about the available schemes, but also as to how interconnected he felt as an intern being able to travel across the globe with the business and work with people at home, in the USA and in all of Microsoft’s satellite offices. At the end Kaan challenged us with a Kahoot to find out whp took the most in from the presentation with prizes; when he mentioned prizes the stakes went up and we were in for an ultra-competitive 5 minutes. I ended up coming second in the quiz and still got a pretty nice tote bag and a nifty rollable water bottle (see image to right). Overall it’s been a really interesting week and I’ve learned a lot of cool stuff and met some really interesting people. …
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Making an RSS Feed for CSBlogs

What is CSBlogs CSBlogs.com is a really useful Node.js web application serving the Computer Science blogging community, built for and maintained by Computer Scientists and designed to let people to share their blogs with each other and encourage sharing projects and cool tech stuff within the community and beyond. What have you made and why? I’ve wrote an application that parses the JSON feed that’s provided by their API and converts it to an RSS feed, I chose Node.JS to build on as I needed a flexible web based platform that’s lighter than something I could write in C# MVC, I wanted to keep on top of my JavaScript too and this gave me an opportunity. It’s a work in progress, and I intend to add features like caching to it, it’s low traffic only being fetched by Zapier for the #hullCSS Discord and Feedly at the moment so it isn’t as necessary but as a long term strategy it’s certainly something I’m looking to implement. How did you make it and where is it? Good question! You can find out more about the creation of the project on it’s project page here: CSBlogs Feed on Projects Page …
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HullPixelBots with Rob Miles

Yesterday Rob Miles, the creator of HullPixelBot, ex-lecturer at the University and now cool local tech person resident at the C4DI came to host a #hullCSS (Hull Computer Science Society) event and explain to us his work to make the robots - why he made them and how we could make our own robots. Why HullPixelBot They’re designed to be an easy and cheap intro to robotics for anyone, whether you’ve never played with an Arduino before - and is a product of modern electronics really, that anyone can build something cool and expand upon the basic robot. Operating Systems and Communication Rob spoke to us about MQTT and the advantages it has for IoT (Internet of Things) devices with its low overhead. I’ve played with MQTT before, both with OwnTracks and currently over the web with blueboxNotify, Rob told us his recommended way to hook IoT devices into Azure to control them with a serverless infrastructure, handy for anything from Robots to Rob’s suggestion of an annoying device with a light sensor that only buzzes when the lights are turn off - one that’s likely to get you into your housemates bad books! In addition to the robots themselves, PixelBots can run their own operating system on the Arduino - we had a demo of hullOS which is pretty similar in syntax to Python, especially handy for people new to programming but for those already familiar with C/C++, you can just write code straight for the Arduino. We’re also hoping to get involved as #hullCSS with Rob’s upcoming ‘Robot Rumble’ - a micro hackathon where each team is given a HullPixelBot and a minute to write software for it and time to quickly test it before sending it down an obstacle course to see who gets the furthest - a really cool event, and technically cool too as the robots can be programmed remotely straight from Azure. Rob had also made a really cool 3D printed NeoPixel lightbox that’s controlled by Arduino as you can see as a GIF on the right, something I now want to make too. You can also read about this event on Rob’s own blog here. …
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Winning NASA's Space Challenge

Last weekend as hullCSS, we went down to the C4DI on the waterfront at Hull to participate in the annual NASA Space Apps Challenge in the largest group in a hackathon we’ve taken part in as hullCSS before (and my first). Arriving bright and early for a 9am kickoff on Saturday we got set up and ready to code, installing the seemingly infinite number of Visual Studio updates and fighting over the available plugs! With the challenges we had over 20 to choose from, so we had to shortlist and shortlist again, with each of us naming a top five challenges that we thought we could develop the best solution for and eventually narrowing ourselves down to ‘Do you know when the next rocket launch is’. We looked around the internet to find out existing solutions that addressed this question and brainstormed how we could do what they do better. We knew we needed something that was fun and engaging to use, which led to us choosing PlayCanvas to create a 3D earth visualisation to build on and display rocket launches as they were taking place on a map for the user. Once we knew the project that we were building, I could take the lead on frontend development and branding, we chose .NET Core MVC as our platform to build off as the technology that the group were most comfortable with. For the brand design we wanted a bright futuristic look that stood out to the user. As the project took shape throughout the day, our graphics specialist team (Harry and Adam) made the world spin and fully interactable, the backend team (Dan and Alex) scraped data from the web, cleaned it up and stored it ready to pass over to the frontend (me)! In the meantime I made the model, view and controller to show the data to users for each launch in a nice webview using blocks to display each type of content, display livestreams and available data (which varied based off when the launch was scheduled and the operator). At 7pm we had a break and swarmed in on the pizza. We wrapped up for the evening around 9.30pm but I met back with the team in the library to get the calendar functionality up and running but decided to call it a day at midnight to be ready for our 8am Sunday start. We started Sunday with a large coffee and a proper breakfast at the cafe outside C4DI, holding a prioritisation meeting to discuss what we’d be up to today to get ready for judging at 3pm. As 3pm drew closer we polished up the application and put the presentation together, adding VR to the application for fun and testing it with a VR headset (it was pretty cool!) Rob Miles and and outside judge watched through the presentations, and as judging began nerves were high as all the entries were really awesome. After everyone had presented the judges went off to deliberate and eventually they returned announcing we’d won as the overall winner. We were delighted to be announce we were the overall winners as we were all proud of our end product, as I believe we created something both educational and fun. The project also brought us together as a closer team and we each learnt a new side of programming, I personally really enjoyed learning more about PlayCanvas, and it was a really good opportunity to get to grips with a new technology. Thank you to C4DI for organising and making the event possible and to Tim Goodfellow for running the social media coverage of the event. You can see our entry on the NASA website here, C4DI’s coverage of the event here and the other members of hullCSS’ blog posts here from Harry and Adam. SpaceTrack on Projects Page …
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UK and Ireland Programming Competition 2018

Today we fielded our first teams to the UK and Ireland Programming Competition. In it teams of up to 3 are given 1 computer and 0 internet to solve up to 12 secret programming puzzles in just 5 hours. http://ukiepc.info/2018/…
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Visiting Sky Leeds

I had a great visit last Thursday to the Sky Offices in Leeds for their Insight Day, a day based around finding out a bit more about working for Sky and the types of projects that their teams are working on. Their offices are really cool, modern and sleek and it seemed like a great working space with a big cafe and a flow of different teams of people having meetings and moving between the three Sky buildings. The office culture too seemed really good, as we walked through the main entrance we were greeted with a board of suggested improvements that people had to make office life even better which showed us from the off the teams are really open to feedback. We started the day being introduced to the team behind Sky’s Software Engineering Academy, and finding out what they were looking for in graduates as well as getting to meet their most recent grads who were able to tell us more about their personal experience of applying and the technology they work with on a daily basis; and given the opportunity to ask them some tough questions! The main part of our afternoon was spent on a coding project, with each of the tables being given a MacBook Pro between a team of 5 people and tasked with making ourselves into an agile team (more on agile here) by assigning a scrum master, product owner, developer and testers between ourselves and come up with an idea to make Sky Cinema a new phone app from a blank mobile bootstrap theme. When we decided our roles the clocks started and we had three 30 minute sprints to develop ourselves a functional product. Our product owner mapped our user requirements to stories, while our scrum master ensured the stories stuck within our 30 minute available sprint time to protect the sprint. As the developer I was then responsible for writing the app (to some pretty quick deadlines) while the two testers used their phones and our other MacBook to ensure that our application performed well on different devices. At the end of each of our 30 minute sprints we had a sprint review, allowing us to work out if our predictions on sprint effort were accurate and refine what was going into the next sprint and moving things around our kanban whiteboard! We were the only group to create a native (progressive) web app from our view, allowing the user to install our very lightweight app easily and hiding away native browser controls to increase engagement. We also used a splash screen to enforce a strong brand image as the user enters the app. Overall it was a really useful and hands on day that I really enjoyed, it was really interesting to meet and work with other undergrads from different Universities too, and was fun to be thrown into a team to develop something with them; thanks to Sky for having us! …
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The Three Thing Game

A new music cover to entice the masses to Three Thing Game. This is for the 3rd and 4th November 2018 event. https://threethinggame.com/post/2018-10-01-the-autumn-event/…
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Playing Games

To cap off our induction week we ran a Bored? Games! event. Specifically the Festival of Daring and Excitement. Still wondering? Let me explain.…
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Robocode Challenge

During induction week this year I put together a lab activity based around Robocode (https://robocode.sourceforge.io/). The students were introduced to it on Wednesday afternoon and had lab slots during Thursday to further refine their creations. Today we got to find out how they all did in an epic showdown.…
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The Printer

I have mentioned my 3d printer a few times on the blog now and I have been meaning to document the various modifications and the overall journey that I have taken with it. So here it is.…
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Meeting industry and learning new technology this semester

As well as my studies this semester, I’ve been to a HullDevs meetup to meet with a community of developers to Sensor City in Liverpool and a HullDevs event to meet local businesses. Visiting Sensor City in Liverpool - March After seeing that the University of Liverpool’s Sensor City (a building to encourage the growth of Smart Cities) was having an open day where local student’s could go and look round and hear from local businesses about opportunities in the region in the future I was really interested, and travelled over from Hull for the day in March (during the industrial action) to find out what the businesses inside were doing. It was a really interesting day and there were some really cool companies talking, an example being FMI Industries who use big data analysis and compare to an analysis of the driver’s current to assess whether they’re likely to fall asleep at the wheel and what risk they are at, to let the driver make informed decisions as to whether they should take a break or if they’re safe to drive. We heard from a range of companies including medical technology, health condition management using Kinect, and LCR 4.0 (Liverpool City Region) as to what technologies are being made available to local businesses like laboratories for board printing to improve collaboration and encourage more startups. The event was really insightful and it was great to meet some local businesses and find out about more up and coming technology. HullDevs - April After hearing that HullDevs was a great community of developers based in the area, I decided to go along to their April event to learn more about what happens there and what different developers are up to - it’s also really conveniently hosted in the University now. It was a really interesting event, with two speakers covering two very different topics. The first talk, from John - the Director of Sauce based in C4DI (the home of software development in Hull) and was on “Why Elixir / Phoenix Should Be Your Default Choice For Any Modern Web Development Project”. It looks like a really good platform to build applications on because of both the incredible performance that it has and the way it scales so easily; it’s an really interesting technology and and it’ll be something I’ll be looking into learning more of over the summer. You can read more about Elixr and Phoenix here. The second talk was from Shahid, a freelance consultant who was talking about building new applications for the cloud using Kubernetes - a platform similar to Docker, with a really cool feature being allowing completely rolling updates to allow zero-downtime upgrading and patching. I’d definitely recommend that anyone at the University who wants to learn about some other technologies that aren’t taught on the course, but are used in industry goes along to HullDevs, as it’s really interesting and you can learn about technology straight from industry professionals themselves. …
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Resurrection

Smiler has been revived and she is now better than ever following the Dead Led debacle (http://goparker.com/post/2018-05-29-dead_led/)…
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